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Moldova's president accuses Russia of planning coup

February 13, 2023

According to the Moldovan leader, Russia planned to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow the small, eastern European country's leadership and prevent it from joining the European Union.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu
Concerns about Russia's intentions with Moldova have been rising since Moscow invaded Ukraine last yearImage: Aurel Obreja/AP Photo/picture alliance

Moldovan President Maia Sandu on Monday accused Russia of plotting to violently overthrow of the country's pro-European leadership in order to stop Moldova from joining the European Union and to use it in the war against Ukraine.

Sandu made her comments after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week his country had uncovered a Russian intelligence plan "for the destruction of Moldova," and days after the country's government resigned.

The US called reports of a Russian plot to overthrow the Moldovan government "deeply concerning." White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the alleged plot had not been independently confirmed but was "certainly not outside the bounds of Russian behavior."

He also added that "we absolutely stand with the Moldovan government and the Moldovan people."

What were the alleged coup plans?

According to Sandu, Moscow's alleged plan would involve "saboteurs" with military background, camouflaged in civilian clothes, to undertake violent actions, attacks on state institutions and taking hostages.

Under the guise of "protests by the so-called opposition," the saboteurs would aim to "overthrow the constitutional order and replace the legitimate power of Chisinau with an illegitimate one," Sandu told journalists.

Moldova, a country of 2.6 million people neighboring Romania and Ukraine, received EU candidate status in the summer of 2022, but over the past year has been faced with numerous anti-government protests organized by a fugitive oligarch named Ilan Shor.

Alongside internal forces such as those controlled by Shor, Moscow planned to use foreign citizens from Russia, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro to implement the coup, Sandu said.

Moldova's parliament would therefore need to "quickly adopt" the laws that would provide the country's Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) and the prosecutors with "the necessary means to fight more efficiently against national security threats," she urged.

But the "Kremlin's attempts to bring violence to Moldova will not work. Our main goal is the security of citizens and the state. Our goal is peace and public order in the country," Sandu added.

Moldova fears a winter without Russian gas

War spills over to Moldova

Sandu has repeatedly expressed concern about Moscow's intentions towards the former Soviet republic and about the presence of Russian troops in the breakaway Trans-Dniester region.

Over the past year, Russia's war on neighboring Ukraine has repeatedly caused security concerns in Moldova. Especially in the first months of the conflict, debris from Russian missiles landed on Moldovan territory after traversing the country's airspace.

Moldova also suffered power outages after Ukraine halted electricity exports over Russian airstrikes on critical infrastructure.

In early February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested that Moldova is the new "anti-Russian project" and declared that the West had now "set its sights on the Republic of Moldova to have the role of the next Ukraine."

dh/rs (AFP, Reuters)